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Today is the anniversary of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote in the United States in 1920.  While revolutionary socialist feminists see the suffrage movement as a "reform" within the capitalist structure, even we can't help feeling the surge of sisterhood as we hit the streets today to celebrate this essential "reform."  The continued and growing gender gap in voting shows that women realize and continue to use this reform to our political advantage.  And the outpouring of women in the streets in the past two years brings a renewed visibility and welcome energy to the grassroots fight for the complete liberation of women.  And yet…

Why didn't we fight back sooner? We have to question why this new swell in the women's movement has occurred only after the attacks against established women's rights have been so successful.  We have to question why we allowed these attacks on our rights and did not challenge the increasing invisibility of women since the height of the women's movement in the mid 1970s.  

The underlying systemic cause of women's exploitation:
I will argue that there are underlying objective biological conditions (of which we are all aware) that led to the oppression and exploitation of women: and, further,  that we have too frequently ignored these underlying systemic and objective causes because they appear to be too overwhelming to address.

First and foremost, women, are still the biological producers of the next generation of the workers who produce society's wealth. Ever since men first discovered that their sperm had something to do with procreation, men in all societies  have been trying to dominate and  control the reproductive functions of women in an effort to control society's wealth.

Second, in the current capitalist society in which we live, there is a need for the capitalist to keep the cost of reproducing the next generation of labor out of the market system because it makes it impossible to get the profits necessary to keep the capitalist owners in riches and the capitalist system going.

These systemic economic conditions of women as exploited, unpaid reproductive labor are never discussed in the current feminist and progressive responses to specific assaults on women's rights such as the  debates over   "legitimate" rape or whether the rights of the zygote supercede the rights of full grown human women in the fight over abortion.

Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. In The Origin of the  Family, Private Property and the State (1884), Engels analyzes the origin of the family as the institution in which males systemically dominate and control the reproduction of the next generation of workers. Women are the "property," owned by men, through which this reproduction could occur.

Under the feudal/patriarchal economic system, the reproduction of workers was incorporated into the economic system of the Manor since the feudal lord had to give the workers sufficient land to make their own food, clothing and shelter so the workers were healthy enough to work for the Lord. But much as the Lord ultimately "owned" the sheep on the feudal land, the Lord also "owned" the workers and any wealth they produced. In regard to female workers, this was exemplified and codified into common law by the custom of First Night Rights in which the Lord (or his surrogate the Priest) had the right to sleep with the serf/worker's wife before the worker could,  to show the Lord's ownership of the females and any subsequent children they produced.  The same held true under slavery where the plantation owners could appropriate slave women at will for sex and reproduction.  Women in general were property and had no legal or economic agency of our own.

Male workers ostensibly broke free of their lords with the breakdown of the feudal mode of production and the development of a market economy outside of the Manor. But, since they owned little except their labor, workers were still forced to sell their labor to the new capitalist owner of the means of production to gain access to basic goods to survive (food, clothing, shelter). The female serfs/slaves were also freed from their lords both economically and sexually.  There were no more official first night rights (though the Strauss-Kahn rape case makes one wonder how much the rights of the ruling class have really changed in practice regarding the appropriation of women's bodies).

But a funny thing happened on the way to the capitalist market -- female workers were still subsumed under the newly freed male workers/serfs/slaves as the property of the individual male wage worker.  This proved a boon to the individual male worker (who now had his own patriarchal ownership of a female worker and her off spring). In its thirst for increase profits and the accumulation of wealth, the ruling class of the Capitalist system allowed the worker to keep his personal property (in the form of women and children) so that the capitalist would not have to pick up the cost of reproducing workers but put that cost directly on the backs of the workers themselves. This also did much to buy off the male worker's alignment with his class interests and encouraged him to identify with the male capitalist ruling class.  The main point, however, is that it was in the economic interest of the capitalist class to keep this vestige of the Patriarchal feudal form of production in the reduced form of the nuclear family with the male worker acting as the Lord.

The importance of this idea was reinforced in an essay by Alexandra Kollantai, the most well known woman socialist thinker in the Russian revolution, in the early 1900s. She again noted that until the State/Government/Community figured out how to socialize the role of reproduction in society, women could never be truly liberated:

"Among the numerous problems raised by contemporary reality there is probably none more important for mankind, none more vital and urgent than the problem of motherhood created by the large-scale capitalist economic system…..Side by side with the problem of sex and marriage, enveloped in the poetical language of the psychological suffering, insoluble difficulties and unsatisfied needs of noble souls, there is always to be found the majestic and tragic figure of motherhood wearily carrying her heavy burden…. The prosperity of national industry and the development of the national economy depend upon a constant supply of fresh labour… the principle of state maternity insurance [is] a principle in sharp contradiction with the present social structure as [it] undermines the basis of marriage and violates the fundamental concepts of private-family rights and relationships…. "(Society and Motherhood 1915).
The cost of reproduction of the working class to the capitalist system. It is difficult to determine the exact cost of reproducing the working class to the capitalist system, but one unpublished grassroots study from the 1970s women's movement noted that if all costs of reproduction of the next generation were taken into account, it would take approximately 1/5th of the GDP in the United States.  Even if this statistic cannot be verified, we do know:
1)  a 2007 study from the US Department of Agriculture estimated that the cost of  raising each child in a typical nuclear family  was $235,000 in 2006 which has in all likelihood increased substantially since then.
2)  If we were to provide just preschool childcare for all children  in the United
States the Federal budget for childcare would have to increase from $15 Billion to
$85 Billion per year.
3) Citizens in countries such as France that have provided full childcare and maternity leave and many other social benefits for their citizens, pay 75% percent in income in taxes.
4) Women in East Germany, where the Soviet Union had socialized most costs of
reproducing workers, suffered severe economic deprivation with the loss of social
support services after the Soviet Union fell and full scale capitalist relations of production were re-introduced (i.e., women's full-time employment in the labor market fell from 91% to 62%. and poverty has greatly increased in all families, particularly among single parents).
 

Whatever you think of the Soviet Union or France or stay-at-home mothers vs. working mothers or abortion vs zygotes, the sheer cost of socializing reproduction of the next generation of workers is so great that the possibility of trying to address this issue might require such a restructuring of our society that we might -- well, we might have to have a revolution. And so we rationalize, play with reforms, change the paradigm for women's freedom, change the terms of the discussion of women's freedom, continue to ignore the elephant in the room and what it will take to end women's oppression.

The systemic struggle is just too hard.There are at least two significant ways in which we have rationalized away our oppression (or tried individually to avoid the worst forms of oppression for ourselves at the expense of women as a group).

1) The single issue reformist approach: Since it is too hard to deal with the whole system, we focus on a single issue to win (i.e., the vote for white women in the first wave of feminism, abortion and contraception in the Second Wave, and sexual harassment and rape in the Third Wave).  Don't get me wrong -- there is nothing wrong with making reforms so long as we don't forget the underlying systemic cause of women's oppression as  biological reproducers of society's laborers.

For example,  the question of abortion and contraception, as a single issue, addresses the problem of women's biological reproduction very nicely -- allowing women control over their own bodies as to when and how they have children.  The problem is that it addresses the issue of women as individuals and, also, in the negative. It enables us not to have children, but it doesn't solve the problem of how to have children in a non-exploitive situation. True, it may, for the individual middle class bourgeoisie woman provide a solution -- she just has to wait until she has a sufficiently well-paying career or rich husband to hire an au pair to raise her children (usually another woman from a third world country at less than minimum wage for a 24 hour a day live-in job).

Last week, Romney got on the air and discussed the abortion question mentioning the rights of the zygote and religious rights, but never once mentioned women.  This invisibility of women that occurs when we limit the question of women's oppression to a single issue is increasingly common, not only on the right, but the left as well. Angela Davis, in a speech before the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly, was giving a laundry list of oppressed groups and failed to mention women.  She did include the LGBT movement (and perhaps she felt that the transition from sex to gender included women in this way) or perhaps she just forgot the category of women, but either way, this increased invisibility of women as an oppressed group is disturbing.

Another area where the single issue approach has limited the deeper awareness is the issue of rape. Rape is simple discussed as a power struggle between men and women.  There is no discussion of the fact that, historically, rape was not about women's loss of agency, but about the damage or loss of one man's property (women) to another man.  This is why the right wing often argues that there can be no rape in marriage.  This concept can also be seen in the custom of men in a conquering army raping the women in the conquered community as their right to booty.  Or in the 1848 law in Massachusetts where if a wife is raped, the husband can cast her off as used goods. Or why there should be no exception in abortion laws for rape or incest since the being of value in such cases is the potential future wealth which will be created by the potential future worker, not the value of the woman carrying the zygote who is simply a vessel or tool of her male "owner."  While we have clearly come some distance from legal property ownership of women, these issues still color the underlying debate.

2) The conflation of sexist exploitation as gender issues.   The shift to the use of gender (a culturally determined concept)instead of sexism as the dominant paradigm for dealing with female exploitation began in the 80s as a less biologically determinist definition by academics. Academic Feminists in the 80s compared sexism to racism.  Racism, however, has no functional biological differences that rationally require the original distinction. The gender paradigm, however, fails to deal with the biological/material roots of sex distinctions in reproduction (actually having babies), how thoroughly they have been institutionalized in all world cultures and how difficult they will be to uproot even when we have the technology to do so.

In the 1970's four of the five major dictionaries included the term sexism and defined it as prejudice or discrimination against women.  Only one dictionary (American Heritage) included "any arbitrary stereotyping of men and women on the basis of gender."  Since gender is a socially created category it does not admit a biological basis for discrimination. By the 1980's the gender definition was almost exclusively used by academic feminists and in recent years has become the accepted definition of discrimination against women. I am not refuting the critical importance of gender (the women's movement was the first to highlight the importance of gender as separate from biology in overcoming the biology is destiny argument). I am simply saying it is necessary but not sufficient.

The gender concept was further complicated in the LBGT movement when the issue of transgendered people came to the for front in the early 1990s since the transgender analysis stands the biology argument on its head. On one hand, transgender says biology doesn't matter, it is mutable and on the other it is saying that biology is everything (we are born this way).  While this certainly doesn't question basic transgender civil rights, it does highlight the confusion in the discussion of biology vs. environment  in the LBGT and women's  movement.

It is also worth noting here that the gender approach, as it currently is being practiced in the LBGT movement, reflects the gay male culture (and liberal heterosexual culture) of the freedom to do your own thing. This is the assimilationist or civil libertarian approach where we all have the right to our own identities as we define them. The lesbian feminist culture in Second Wave feminism questioned this approach as reformist since it did not challenge the categories of dominance and submission in marriage, the nuclear family or the gay male community and society at large as inconsistent with a movement that was seeking equality. The male identified approach to gay rights has, in fact, won the day and is the current approach promoted by most progressive movements, just as the secondary concept of "gender" has replaced sexism in regard to women's liberation.

The wholistic rather than the piecemeal approach. This point of this discussion is not to pit one group or approach against, but to recognize that in only fighting the battle piecemeal without looking at the underlying systemic causes of female/sex/gender oppression, or denying objective realities such as the systemic institutionalization of biological differences,  we may be in danger of losing the war.  

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 10:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by Sexism and Patriarchy, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A related thought (12+ / 0-)

    Since Akin's "legitimate rape" statement, I have seen the phrase "the rapist's child/baby/fetus" more times than I can count.

    I don't doubt the good intentions of the writers using the phrase, but it bothers me every time because it invokes the notion of male ownership.  It's much the same as the notion of a "bastard" or "illegitimate" child being one without an identified father.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

  •  Apologies for accidentally publishing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, mint julep

    the piece early, I hit the wrong button. I am sorry, perhaps we can leave it and let others come in later to comment? I am so sorry Geminijen!!!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 11:15:28 AM PDT

    •  We normally meet to discuss these pieces (4+ / 0-)

      at 6 pm eastern. I accidentally published earlier. Hoping that people will come back at 6pm to continue the discussion on an excellent piece when others will be present. This is such an important discussion. Again, I apologise for the error!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 11:40:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I appreciate the early posting. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, mint julep

      Normally I am sitting around in my pyjamas waiting for it.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 02:27:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Next week's post is by Le Gauchiste (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        northsylvania, mint julep

        for Labor day and if I am correct, he will be doing a two-part piece.

        Hoping that we can get volunteers to write something for September as we have openings and October. Please write to either me, Justina, TPau or Geminijen if you have an idea for a piece or want a slot.

        Thanks!!

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:45:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Matriarchal societies (6+ / 0-)

    You write:

    Ever since men first discovered that their sperm had something to do with procreation, men in all societies  have been trying to dominate and  control the reproductive functions of women in an effort to control society's wealth.
    That's not actually true. In matriarchal societies, women own the property, and property is passed down from mother to daughter. Since there is never any doubt about who a girl's mother is, matriarchal societies tend to have many fewer sexual taboos than patriarchal societies: a child's paternity is never an issue, hence no need to control sex lives.

    We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

    by Keith Pickering on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 11:15:35 AM PDT

    •  We cannot assume that property ownership (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye, Geminijen, Renee, Odysseus, Chi

      and control is the same in a matriarchal and a patriarchal society. Essentially, it is the control over property and its relation to power relations that characterises a patriarchal society. To assert that these forms of power dominance related to property exists intact in both forms is probably erroneous. Given what you said above, which is correct, in that in a matrialineal or matriarchal society (in which you always know who the mother is), it became essential for men to maintain control over their property to control not only a women's reproduction, but her movement and sexuality as well to be able to transfer the property to their heirs. That forms one of the foundations of women's oppression and the attempt to make women property of the man as well which was an essential component of the disempowering of women and the individualisation of property. The fact that a women's movements and ownership of property and control were restricted occurred for these very reasons. Geminijen makes that point clearly as does Engels and other socialist feminist writers.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 11:29:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I believe that it was after men discovered their (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, Renee, northsylvania, TPau

      role in procreation that societies began to slowly transiton from more matriarchal societies to patriarchal.  One of the signs of the transition of power is in the gods as signifiers.  In the earliest matriarchal societies there was just a female god. Later there were both a female and male god emphasized in the creation myth (along with lesser gods).  Finally, with the advent monotheism, societies shifted to predominanatly patriarchal societies.

  •  Geminijen, wanted to thank you for (5+ / 0-)

    the excellent piece which I agree with completely. The need for a coherent marxist economic analysis to underpin the discussion of sexism and women's oppression is essential to understand the totality of the discussion. Agree completely that discussing women's oppression piecemeal has led to an insufficient analysis and also a lack of understanding of the dual exploitation of women economically and in the context of social reproduction of the system. The approach of the movement based upon limited reform without understanding the general exploitation and its linkage to the capitalist economic system means that eradication of sexism and women's oppression is not possible without the eradication of the system. Reforms only get us so far and they are limited by the system in which they are trapped contextually. Even if we achieved "equality" in the context of the system our oppression is linked to the system itself. We have seen that reforms when they have occurred have enabled us to still remain oppressed in the context of the system as the system is a part of that; even with the so-called reforms, we are trapped in both class and race and even then trapped within the context of property, control and dominance of the system itself. We find ourselves constantly fighting the same battles over and over again as reform can easily be undone. What we are seeing today is the culmination of a long-term agenda by the right and some religious institutions to keep us in these specific roles determined by both the systems of capitalism and patriarchy. Thanks so much for the excellent analysis.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 12:06:36 PM PDT

    •  This is an excellent piece (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geminijen, TPau, NY brit expat, mint julep

      and an excellent comment. I would add that in periods of rapid change, assigned roles in society's systems are either reinforced or forcibly taken back to previous states. For example, in 17th century England, as the feudal economy transitioned into the market economy, gender roles were enforced within the community by skimmington rides, where the husband was punished for his perceived weakness in the marital balance of power. In a carnivlesque context, skimmington was used more playfully, but up until the 19th century it was used as a form of community punishment to make men aware that their wives were subservient, not equals.
      My gut feeling is that the current "war on women" has similar roots in current societal unease. The extent that the community buys into punishing women for problems that are not of their making is horrifying. I had been of the opinion that women, like immigrants or gay people, were scapegoated as those who had less power. This diary has given me another viewpoint to consider: that women devolve to property when an economic system is under threat.
       

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 02:51:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent and thoughtful analysis! (7+ / 0-)

    The traditional Christian marriage service describes the husband as the lord and master. They may have been pressured into putting a different spin on the language, but the idea is still there. It's still about the Droit du seigneur.

    What has Adkins and co. on the war path is that technology has given women more power and control over the biological constraints of pregnancy. There are readily available reliable and usually safe means of contraception and pregnancy termination. They are desperately looking for a way to turn back the clock on that freedom.

    One irony of the capitalist context is that as middle class women have become more demanding of control over producing a supply of future labor, the birth rates for women of color who are immigrants remain high. That is the source of future labor in US and European societies.  With that comes the threat of new political majorities and the lose of white privilege.

    It's no wonder that the good old boys are so distraught.

    Check out Scottie's blog http://burnafterwriting.com/

    by Richard Lyon on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 12:07:46 PM PDT

    •  The technology of abortion and contraception -- (6+ / 0-)

      when society allows us to have it (you can't get an abortion in over 80% of the counties in the United States today even though abortion is technically legal -- poor women can't get one do to the Hyde amendment. but this only solves the problem of how to not have children, what do we do when we need the children for the next generation and society doesn't provide social supports. Who is the exploited then.  Probably still the women who bear them in the working class and the third world nannies in the middle class.

      •  That definitely appears to be the direction (4+ / 0-)

        that things are headed in. In addition to immigrants who can be persuaded to work for what they can get, the neoliberal plan seems to be to reduce the cost of domestic labor in the sacred name of austerity.

        So far the middle class seems willing to be led passively down the garden path.

        Check out Scottie's blog http://burnafterwriting.com/

        by Richard Lyon on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 01:02:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for an informative diary. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, VetGrl, Geminijen, Musial, NY brit expat

    I'm bothered by this example:

    For example,  the question of abortion and contraception, as a single issue, addresses the problem of women's biological reproduction very nicely -- allowing women control over their own bodies as to when and how they have children.  The problem is that it addresses the issue of women as individuals and, also, in the negative. It enables us not to have children, but it doesn't solve the problem of how to have children in a non-exploitive situation. True, it may, for the individual middle class bourgeoisie woman provide a solution -- she just has to wait until she has a sufficiently well-paying career or rich husband to hire an au pair to raise her children (usually another woman from a third world country at less than minimum wage for a 24 hour a day live-in job).

    I think there are two distinct questions here. One, how to solve the problem of how women bear and parent children in a non-exloited state of being. And two, how to raise the children in a non-exploitive way.

    If a woman freely chooses to have kids, why must those children be raised by someone else (presumably being exploited financially) in order to achieve a non-exploited status? It seems like maybe you are saying that the only way a woman can be non-exploited is by participating in the free market economy as a player. And yes, assuming we are stuck in the model, I see your point. But I think we could imagine other models which would open up other possibilities.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 12:23:12 PM PDT

    •  part of the difficulty lies in the fact (7+ / 0-)

      that women are facing a dual exploitation. On the one hand, she is in charge not only of physical reproduction, but social reproduction as well as it is not only the physical birth of the child that is important, it is raising the child and socialising it for its role under the system. On the other hand, she also needs to work outside the home as a wage labourer; this has always been the case for working class women, but with falling incomes generally (this is besides the fact that women's wages are still lower than men and they are often trapped in part-time lower waged jobs), this is also the case for middle class women as well. The idea advanced by Kollantai is an attempt to release women partly of the social reproduction role and socialise it. That is the point of public schooling in many ways, it allows for the socialisation of part of social reproduction (so that it is not the women's responsibility at home solely).

      Participating in the free-market economy is inherently exploitive, by removing some of the responsibility for social reproduction from individuals or the family unit and placing it under a social level, it removes part of women's dual exploitation leaving her with the same exploitation that men suffer in a capitalist system, that of labour. What is happening under austerity measures is telling, much of the social responsibility for social reproduction (child care, education,  carer for the ill and elderly) is being privatised to the family unit again rather than being addressed socially.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 01:01:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was the mass movement (5+ / 0-)

        of middle class into the paid workforce that masked the stagnation of wage levels for the past 30 years. In addition to the ravages of the great recession the steady elimination of family support programs, should make it more and more difficult for the American public to pull the covers over its collective head.

        Check out Scottie's blog http://burnafterwriting.com/

        by Richard Lyon on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 01:07:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Wouldn't refusing to socialize the child for its (4+ / 0-)

        role in the system be a good idea then? And as an aside, since public schools are responsible for some of that work, isn't that a legitimate reason to question at least some of the goals of public education?

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 01:11:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent analysis. So how do we fight toward a (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TPau, NY brit expat

        truly liberated future?

        •  Honestly, I was just trying to clarify (0+ / 0-)

          your excellent piece and Kollantai's point with a bit of addition as to what is happening due to neoliberal austerity and the attack on both the state and social welfare state.

          I have been thinking of this a lot, the left has shifted, we have recognised and incorporated sex and racist oppression into the analysis and that was a serious movement during the new left. A large part of our struggle is not only against the capitalist system, but also against patriarchial domination in the system and unfortunately this has held in the movement fighting against the system as well.

          I strongly believe that analyses like the one presented here and the excellent discussion enable us to develop not only a good analysis, but struggling around these issues, trying to get the understanding of the dual nature of women's oppression (and triple nature of oppression and exploitation for women of colour) can form the basis of a struggle that is beyond the simple reforms. We fought for the reforms like voting rights, we still struggle for the right to control our reproduction and reproductive rights, we still are struggling for basic economic equality and child-care, access to health care. We gain inches and are clawing on to hold onto minimal reforms while mainstream struggles abandon those on lower incomes and the poor. Bringing these things together in a total systemic fight, bringing issues of sexism, racism, and imperialism together is needed to advance not only the cause of women but also the class struggle. We are experiencing a class war, a war on women and an overall sustained attack on people of colour; I completely agree with your argument that it is a total rather than a piecemeal approach that is necessary. The question is how to get this to be the general perspective rather than the specific approach of the hard left.

          I think that this is a struggle that must begin at the grassroots and to work for a democratic (in the sense of direct democratic discussion and participation); it is necessary for all participants to adapt and come up with ways to advance forward. I know that sounds like I am passing the buck, but I think that this needs to be done at all levels, discussed, debated and fought.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:42:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Would love to hear what you think those models are (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Renee, TPau, NY brit expat, mint julep

      --democratic social welfare state like France, a modern flex hour sharing of childrearing in a liberal capitalist state. childcare coops run by parents sharing the workload.  A fully socialized plan for reproduction of children? Do you  models work for all women or are they individual solutions?  It's good to actually ahve this conversation of where we are headed and how we can actually get there.

      •  In this discussion I am more a boots on the ground (5+ / 0-)

        sort of participant. I am learning the theory of this by belated reading. I have always chaffed under our current model though, and I have worked to set up parts of my life according to what I believe is possible.

        I homeschool my kids because I wanted them to have the ability to think critically about the expectations placed upon them by society instead of having them so deeply ingrained that they could not discern them. I homeschooled with a loose group of families and we did share the workload.

        The only reason I was able to do this was that the kid's dad was willing to be the sole financial provider. At points during our time together we ran micro-businesses as an attempt to have more control over our financial options. We struggled against each other in that, because he felt more financial security in performing a job for a company other than our own.  My point is that I certainly wasn't living outside the current model in a sustainable way.

        I like the idea of an assortment of collectives based on common goals. Public school is an excellent example of what I do not like about a fully socialized plan for reproduction of children. I disagree with much of the socialization children receive at school. I don't understand how such an overarching undertaking could adequately serve every person.

        Since I am going through a divorce I'm thinking about the practical side of this and wondering about how to integrate my opinions more fully with  my choices.

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 01:45:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have tried many similar things, though I do (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Renee, TPau, NY brit expat

          believe you can have a fully socialized system if the people who create it from the ground up plan a nonbureaucratic system from the get -- think about the whole system, then decentralize and keep close democratic grassroots control on the ground.

          I do know that many of our public schools are bad because they are intended to be bad --especially for the poor. This system wants everything private so they grudge anything they have to give  to the public sphere.

          I also know that, while we can sometimes cushion the problems, there is no way to create the alternative within the system and I don't feel good when I do it just for a few kids -- that's too much like the rich and privileged.  I want a solution for all children.

          I try to balance alternatives with broader political efforts.

          •  I struggle with the inability to realize an (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Geminijen, TPau, NY brit expat, mint julep

            alternative for all kids too.

            Since I am powerless to force a solution for all kids now, I have to make do by talking to people about my experiences. I encourage people to see things in a different light where I can.

            Poverty = politics.

            by Renee on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 03:03:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The societal goals I am espousing right now are (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Renee, NY brit expat, mint julep

              6 months paid maternity leave for any mother, paid parental leave for parents up to a certain number of days (like sick leave), full voluntary childcare for any child from 0-5 years on a full-time or part-time basis, for any mother whether she works or not.  there was a model city program in Seattle in the 70s that provided this and it was amazing the amount of stress that was lifted from women's shoulders. Broadening of the foood stamps and wic programs, free prenatal and postnatal health care with small local healthcare clinics every 8 blocks, etc. headstart for all children (again, volunjtary but available should the mother choose it).  

        •  Renee--I would love to see a diary from you.... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Renee, NY brit expat, mint julep

          about this subject.

          De air is de air. What can be done?

          by TPau on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:32:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  extended family and poverty (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat

      of children are related, leading to the patriarchal right to pillage from education, health care and the safety net.

  •  Good points but they don't pay 75% in taxes (4+ / 0-)

    in France. It's a proposed top tax rate and it's not clear if it will pass. Current tax rates are significantly lower than that.

    •  Thanks. got it off the net. What do they pay now? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat

      The main point of course its that they are willing to pay significantly more than our top rate folks who keep trying to get out of anycommitment to a social safety net at all.

      •  Would point out that historically in the US... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geminijen, NY brit expat

        the top tax rate has been HIGHER than 75%.

        Also would point out that in France you get health benefits, childcare and an education for that money. In order to compare apples to apples, you would have to average what Americans spend on those things and add it to our tax burden to get a realistic comparison.

        De air is de air. What can be done?

        by TPau on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:40:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  that is true. and during those periods we had a (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat

          much better safety net although we obviously never had a social welfare state like many european countries do.  The point of adding that example was to show why the US system, given the current government attitudes would ever be willing to even think about the kind of social network we might want and that it will require a real effort to get it --which is why we often try to work around the issue which won't in the long run work.

      •  Right now the top rate is 41%. However, it doesn't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat

        include their version of social security taxes (another 8%).

    •  This is correct throughout Europe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geminijen

      as part of a two-prong stratgey with respect to both corporate taxation (beggar thy neighbour taxation policies to lure capital to countries) and then cutbacks in progressive income taxes and lower marginal taxation rates to encourage the rich to keep their income under the absurd argument that savings are used for investment (they just simply refuse to understand that investment determines savings and that Say's Law does not hold).

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:50:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Gee and I thought europe was less reactive with (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat

        its tax policies for the rich and still more progressive with its social welfare programs, even with the austerity cutbacks.  Guess we tend to idealize other countries.

        •  Things used to be a lot better ... (0+ / 0-)

          the EU and the nature of the way that it was set up allowed for easy capital mobility between countries and hence undermined more progressive tax regimes. Ireland, for example, used the beggar thy neighbour taxation policies seriously to draw capital into the country and undermined other countries keeping corporate taxes high. Then since the triumph of neoliberalism, most of the higher personal tax regimes have been undermined. The exceptions are up in Scandanavia where they have been kept and also sustain smaller differentials in income and a decent social welfare state. Even with more reactionary governments up there, tax regimes have been kept strict and progressive. This is not the case in France which suffered under right-wing governments for a while, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, etc. Most countries fell into the neoliberal dribble on taxation and this has been used to undermine their social welfare states and state sectors. Things are not good in most of the EU, there are some exceptions like Scandanavia, but understanding how neoliberal the EU economic agenda has been is essential to understand what is happening there.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:33:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Been a while since (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geminijen, Renee, NY brit expat

    I read an article discussing "The Origin of Family, Property an the State." I don't recall one that had the courage to confront the central contradiction of contemporary Feminism vis a vis abortion.

    The reproductive rights of women are essential to their liberation both as individuals and as a class but it is here that the interest of the individual and the collective collide. Society has a clear interest in the propagation and care of children but the individual woman's choice must be paramount otherwise women are reduced to chattels.

    The only way to resolve this contradiction is to create the material conditions in which the choice to give birth can become a practical and preferred alternative to terminating a pregnancy. An authentic choice between two alternatives freely made, one not driven by material want or necessity.

    One has to wonder why this crucial point has failed to take widespread root. How is it that the compelling collective interest in the next generation, harmonized with the individual and collective interest of women as a class, has been displaced and obscured by demagogic appeals to "Family Values" and coercive sanctions?

    This is a question that calls for broad, critical discussion.

    One caveat about terminology. It is my understanding that the term "Matriarchy" is largely, not entirely, the product of the ideology of Patriarchy. At least that's how my Women's Anthropology Prof. explained it back in the  day. According to her, the mindset of Patriarchy didn't allow for ideas of power sharing with women. Consequently, when representatives of European Patriarchy encountered any society or culture where women held any significant degree of status or political power, they described it as a "Matriarchy." Particularly so
    when the societies so described were Matrialineal.

    My Prof. considered this to be a crucial distinction and pretty much drummed Matriarchy out of the lexicon. What's the current thinking?

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 01:56:25 PM PDT

    •  I agree that the term matrilineal is the correct (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WB Reeves, TPau, NY brit expat

      one - just fell into using the terminology in the comment I was responding to. From what I have read, the power dynamics in matrilineal society are much more group oriented from my understanding -- children know who they mom and uncles are but tend to be raised as belonging to the community as a whole.

      Re:the question of why we haven't provided community support for raising our children under capitalism? As I said in the article, the cost is prohibitive in a system which is built on taking the wealth from workers to make their profits --it would require a whole new society.

      •  Only one of many reasons to abandon this for a... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geminijen, NY brit expat

        better society.

        De air is de air. What can be done?

        by TPau on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:44:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Couldn't agree more. Just how we get there and (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat

          what constitutes a better society is the question that we have to focus on.  It can include short term solutions, but not be limited to them.  and we have to point out the very nasty Patriarchal capitalist implications underlying current policies on women (i.e., women as property).  Though the right wing has become so blatant in its attitudes toward women that the nastiness in showing through on its own!

  •  Really had hoped to get more feedback on the shift (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    from sexism to gender analysis.  I think this is really indicative of a shift away from a material analysis and, frankly, could land us in some very reactive places -- though it doesn't necessarily have too.  would like others feedback on this.

    •  I think that the point is a good one (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geminijen

      This article really focused me in on social reproduction and how even when it was socialised, women's traditional jobs primarily lay in this field once the social welfare state and state education was created and we were moved out of the factories.

      In and of itself, the focus on gender rather than sex doesn't necessarily have to shift away from a materialist analysis, although I agree that is what we are seeing in reality. I think that arises from the nature of the movement itself; a strong materialist core to the analysis would keep it grounded. I think that is an essential fundamental contribution that socialist feminists have given to the movement. However, I think that you raise a good point that the way in which the movement shifted when the discussion shifted towards gender rather than sex also shifted from a more revolutionary towards a reformist perspective. Is this due to the nature of the mainstream feminist and LGBT movements grounded in reform or is it due to a gender focus? I think it may be the former in practice rather than a necessary shift, but I may be wrong. Incorporating these issues into a revolutionary perspective is what we need to be fighting for; while maintaining a materialist base.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:47:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great analysis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geminijen, NY brit expat

    Reminds me of Shulamith Firestone's A Dialectic of Sex.

    I believe, and hope, that working and middle class Americans will come to see the validity of Marxist analysis as the class war initiated by the 0.1% starts to seriously impact the more affluent among (what's left of) the middle.

    -9.00, -5.85
    Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it means to be a slave.

    by Wintermute on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 04:48:38 AM PDT

    •  It's our job to make them see it -- to make the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat

      exploitation of women visible again. To not settle for the secondary contradictions of style and culture (which, face it,  are always so much more interesting than the dry day to day topic of how bear and get the resources to raise our children).  

      Thanks for the nice comment btw.

    •  Shulamith Firestone (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geminijen

      her book is really good. I am so glad that you brought her up in this discussion. Maybe you would want to write a diary for us on what she said in the book?

      I think, like Geminijen, that it is our job to bring the analysis to them. I think that people do understand it, but at times, articulating exactly what they are experiencing is difficult. The analysis is so important, people live this everyday, confirming their experiences, sharing it, is an essential role of the left.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 08:24:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, expat, glad you're enjoying Ecuador. Re (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat

        Shulammith Firestone -- she is the one writer who puts Patriarchal oppression first that I still realy like.  Unfortunately, she bases oppression in a psychological point of view which leaves out the most critical part of Marxism --the material base.

        One of my favorite parts of her analysis is when she talks about the two kinds of love --the exciting dangerous kind and the dull healthy kind.

        btw - the sexism and patriarchy group sent me an invite which I accepted.  think you had something to do with it. Thanks.

  •  Mitt Romney explains his jobs plan for women... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Young Chinese women.

    Mitt Romney admits buying Chinese Global Tech sweatshop while at Bain. 20,000 young girls. 12 girls per room. 120 girls per bathroom. Huge fences with barbed wire and guard towers.

    http://www.youtube.com/...

    It's real. And it's sickening.

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